#JusticeForOchanya: Benue State Government Not Doing Enough to Ensure Justice for Late Teenager, say Activists
By Nsikan Ikpe
Activists from Nigeria’s civil society space have tasked the Benue State Government to do more to ensure that justice is yet done in the Ochanya rape saga.
Speaking on the eve of the first anniversary of her death, the women and children’s rights activists who gathered in Lagos recently to push for justice for Ochanya Ogbanje, the Benue school girl who died last October from complications arising from alleged serial rape by a lecturer and his son, said that they expect more from the Benue State government.
The occasion was a child protection workshop organised by the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), and also witnessed the presentation of a book #JusticeForOchanya: Reflections on the Child Sexual Abuse Crisis in Nigeria published by the organization.
The book, a compilations of reports, editorials, opinions, special reports on child sexual abuse and pictorials around the unprecedented nation-wide campaign for Ochanya last year, was, according to the editor, Betty Abah, a journalist-activist and founder of CEE-HOPE, conceived to document an important phase of activism history in Nigeria, to continue sensitizing the public as to how to prevent child sexual abuse, to probe at the heart of policy makers, law enforcement agents and other stakeholders in light of the prevent but ‘haphazardly addressed’ epidemic.
‘It is also to remind the world that a year after the global outcry that attended Ochanya’s death, justice is yet to be served, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in the body language of the Benue State Government suggesting their seriousness in bringing the suspects to book.”
The one-day workshop also had in attendance, late Ochanya’s elder brother, Ameh Ejekwonyilo, who is himself an Abuja-based journalist.
In his remarks, Ameh thanked civil society, the media and the general public for the huge show of support for the cause.
‘There is no amount of punishment handed down to the suspects, if found guilty, that will bring Ochanya back to life’, Ejekwonyilo said.
‘But the quest for justice is to ensure that with justice, little girls and vulnerable women in Nigeria as a whole will be safer from the pandemic of sexual violence, and we are convinced that this is why Nigeria and the rest of the world are united in demanding justice for Ochanya’, he added.
Other child’s rights activists including Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, Olayinka Braide and Anthonia Ojenagbon, also spoke at the event. All three spoke as survivors of child sexual violence, igniting depressed moods and sometimes gasps from the audience.
Dr. Olufemi-Kayode, a sexual violence response expert with background in criminal justice, enlightened the participants consisting of NGO practitioners, journalists, teachers, educationists, students and other stakeholders on detecting and preventing child sexual abuse (CSA) which she described as ‘an epidemic’.
Both Braide and Ojenagbon spoke about their rape encounters as young girls and the blatant vulnerability, stigma and victimization they experienced. Braide narrated passionately about being violated for several years by a clergy with whose family she stayed in order to escape the poverty and accommodation crises her family faced, while Ojenagbon spoke about her several attempts at suicide arising from the abuses she faced and how her survival encouraged her to start a thriving safe place and confidential group to cater for persons for rape victims and others suffering depression.
Ejekwonyilo, speaking with reporters after the event, noted that a year after the ugly incident, the police was yet to declare wanted the second suspect, Victor Ogbuja, a final year student of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi. He also revealed that Mr Ogbuja’s case would come up on October 9 at the state high court in Makurdi, Benue while the case of the wife, Felicia, comes up on October 8 at the Federal High Court, Makurdi. Mrs Ogbuja is being prosecuted by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) for child endangerment, enslavement and negligence.
Ejekwonyilo also advised children undergoing sexual molestation to speak out and let the world know about their challenges. He similarly advised parents to educate their children and to encourage them to speak up.
The book was launched by CEE-HOPE’s board member and media consultant, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin. The participants, through the question and answer sessions and general consensus agreed that more action was needed to protect children in Nigeria. They expressed shock that even with all the shock attending Ochanya’s tragic death, the Benue State government has not done much to ensure that substantial justice is achieved, one clear year after the untimely death of the child victim who had nurtured a dream of one day becoming a medical doctor herself.